We never know the depth nor width of the roots of an old tree, until we start digging.
We have been digging around Canada’s Christian roots since 2006. As a past homeschooling Mom teaching Canadian History and Politics to our co-op, I came across issues I wanted to understand. I questioned:
- What was the root cause of the referendum I had experienced? Discussions which had started in 1992, culminated in a vote in 1995.
- Who were the Huguenots that I had heard so much about?
- Where was Acadia and why were the Acadians expelled?
- What were the Native issues? And what about the ‘Residential Schools’?
If you are an immigrant to Canada, you cannot really understand what makes Canadians tick if you don’t understand where they came from originally and what societal forces brought change over time.
If you are a Christian Canadian who happens to believe the words of Daniel to King Nebuchadnezzar: ‘He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding (Daniel 2:21), then it becomes quite an exciting adventure when you attempt to connect the dots of God’s Sovereignty in history.
My curiosity led me to the FIRST explorers and settlers to what is known as ‘New France’. Following ‘rabbit trails’ of everyone linked to anyone of whom I was reading, led me to France. I have come full circle, back to Parliament Hill.
Recently, just before the Centre Block was closed in January 2019 for 10 – 15 years of renovations, I took some photos with my phone – photos of carvings in the marble which abound in the Centre Block. I had long been curious about them, and because this building would be closed for so may years, I seized the opportunity to ‘snap away’ at things above eye level. I took a photo of the marble frieze (first picture above) which represents a part of Canadian History that has not been told.
Coming from the West Indies (now a proud Canadian), ALL of the Canadian History I have read and taught, began with Samuel de Champlain in New France. So when I examined this photo above, I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of things:
- These people on the frieze (Francis I and Louis XIV) represented the EXACT period of Canadian History I have been researching for many years now. They were like bookends, and sandwiched between them was the history of the Huguenots,
- When asked, most people had NO IDEA who the people in the frieze were.
- Most people do not know ANYTHING about that time period, or HOW and WHY it is tied to Canadian History (or why it was included as a frieze over the doorway of the House of Commons).
Many years ago, I had already heard that the Huguenots were the first permanent settlers of Canada. But information had been sketchy and lacking in official textbooks. My West Indian context limited my ability to fully understand what that meant to Canada. Even people I know who boasted of having a Huguenot ancestry, could not point me in the direction of reliable information.
The First and Oldest Surviving Building in Canada.
So I started reading about the Huguenots. Then I realized that the word simply meant ‘French Protestants’.
Then I read about the Huguenot colonizers who had been given special commission by King Henry IV of France (de Tonnetuit and Du Gua), which led me to read about the Edict of Nantes, which led to The French Wars of Religion, which led to Jeanne d’Albret, which led to Catherine de Medici, which led to her husband King Henry II of France, which led me to his FATHER!!! King Francis I of France – the first figure on the frieze shown above.
And by the way, Pierre Chauvin de Tonnetuit – a Huguenot nobleman, and military officer in Henry IV’s army, built that first building above in Tadoussac Quebec. It is recognized as the longest standing building in Canada and has been designated a ‘World Heritage Site’ by the UN.
I am told by retired Christian Professors that THEY have not heard about the connections and new discoveries I have made. THAT is exciting!!!
The proponents of the ‘cancel culture’ seek to remove statues and memorial stones from our view in an effort to expunge from our collective social memory those people they deem to be ‘blots’ to our history. The positive and valuable contributions to our country made by these men, are portrayed as insignificant compared to their ‘shortcomings’ as judged by today’s standards.
In rewriting the stories to suit our ‘delicate sensibilities’, the statue of Lieutenant Edward Cornwallis – who was responsible for establishing Halifax at the beginning of British rule of colonial Canada, has been removed from public view.
Sir John A Macdonald our first Prime Minister who led the Fathers of Confederation to form the Dominion of Canada, has been removed from Victoria BC’s City Hall during the push to ‘decolonize the schools’, which started in Toronto.
In the past few months, his statue has been vandalized at various locations in Canada. As recently as August 29th 2020 his statue was toppled by protesters in Montreal. With the recent death in the US of George Floyd at the hands of the police, the ‘cancel culture’ is once again calling for the erasure of many historical figures from our public places.
I am still doing doing due diligence to answer the following questions:
- What was the relationship between the Natives and the first settlers?
- How and Why did it change?
- What aspects of Native-to-Settler relationship are still negatively affecting the Native communities today?
To answer these questions, I have been researching many of the figures sandwiched between the book-ends of Francis I and Louis XIV.
These ‘sandwiched’ figures appear at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in France which marked the birth of the ‘Huguenots’ as a people under the reign of King Francis 1.
Persecution of the Huguenots began with Francis I, worsened under his son Henry II and during the years that Henry’s wife Catherine de Medici acted as regent, coming to full eruption under Louis XIV.
Louis XIV who ruled from 1643 to 1715, reputedly boasted that when he came to the throne, there were about 1 million Huguenots in France, and in a few short years they were reduced to somewhere between 1000-1500.
Under his rule in New France, both Protestant teaching and worship were outlawed and after the Edict of Nantes was revoked, Huguenots were commanded to abjure their faith or leave New France. It is my understanding that many of them migrated to North and South Carolina, Rhode Island and New Jersey. This is still being researched.
The curriculum being prepared tells the record of Canada’s history ‘Pre-Champlain’ and ‘Pre-British Colony’. I intend to tell the stories as I find them. Some of them are extremely unpleasant. There are over 40 stories to be told. But if we are to build tomorrow’s future, we need to look back at yesterday’s past to learn from it.
These will be told with animation and excitement by video lessons. You will never see Canadian History as BORING again! Ever!
Author’s Note: Lynette is the owner of ChristianRoots Canada. She has been developing this curriculum for over 10 years and is learning how to move from teaching History to small groups and 1-on-1, to teaching History digitally.